George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da T⁠i⁠mes-Un⁠i⁠on — Lead Le⁠t⁠⁠t⁠er: Flor⁠i⁠da prosecu⁠t⁠es ⁠t⁠oo many ch⁠i⁠ldren as adul⁠t⁠s

By: The James Madison Institute / 2015

Florida Times-Union
“Lead Letter: Florida prosecutes too many children as adults”
April 14, 2015
By Sal NuzzoFlorida is a national leader in many areas. We consistently lead the nation in job growth, educational achievement, business climate, economic freedom and overall quality of life — all benchmarks to be incredibly proud of.However, there is one measure that should shock Floridians, invoke concern and implore action. Florida prosecutes more children as adults than any other state in the nation. This is a primary result of a statute known as “direct file.”Since 1978, Florida law has allowed prosecutors the sole discretion to send children directly into the adult court system. Direct file allows youth as young as 14 to be sentenced to adult sanctions, including probation, jail and prisons with no judicial review.While tough-on-crime advocates may claim this statute acts to reduce crime, they’d be wrong. Youth held temporarily or officially committed to the adult criminal justice system are 34 percent more likely to be rearrested for felonies than youth who had been retained in the juvenile justice system.Advocates for the status quo might say that this process helps ensure we lock up the worst of the worst.That claim would be in spite of the fact that in each of the past five years, the majority of children transferred to adult court were charged with nonviolent offenses.Instead of reducing crime, prosecuting children as adults and sending them to an adult prison produces crime by making youth more likely to commit crimes in the future.We need a process that is effective in treating children, one that exists to deter them from a life of crime, not show them the ropes.There is a difference between children accused of non-violent versus violent offenses. Diversion programs and restorative justice based in Florida’s juvenile justice system provide more positive outcomes for Florida’s children. Lastly, more worth should be placed on the economic value of reducing recidivism among youth offenders.To this end, the state should examine whether prosecutors should be the sole arbiters of whether a child should be charged and tried as an adult for certain non-violent offenses.Sal Nuzzo, The James Madison Institute, Tallahassee, FLArticle: